Dr. Douglas White, M.D., of Rock Spring in Catoosa County, has three big reasons to be thankful: his three children and their continued safety, despite all being active members of the military.
Phone calls to military families can bring either smiles of relief or tears of agony. When White answered the phone Oct. 25 a smile spread across his face, as it does every time he hears one of his children's voices on the other end. The smile raised by that phone call from his son, 19-year-old Lance Cpl. Darius Princeton White, was bigger than most. He and his wife Pherlmela, a local dentist, had not had word from the former Heritage High School football player for more than a month prior, and his base had come under attack in Afghanistan where he was stationed with fellow U.S. Marines.
"It's the phone call no one wants to receive; however he called, and that in itself was a relief," Douglas White said.
Recounting the call from his son that day he reported that Darius White, a tanker, and his comrades had been pinned down for two days under heavy combat fire. After being rescued by the Austrian equivalent of Navy Seals, the youngest White is now in the hospital at U.S. Marine Corps base Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan.
"Thank God he had no serious injuries," said his father. "We are continuing to wait to hear from him for an update."
The dangers of war are nothing new to the White family. Douglas White served in the U.S. Air Force for 11 years while completing medical school at the same time. Also following in his footsteps are his two daughters: West Point graduate Pia K. White, 26, now a 1st lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and Cadet Maj. Prittany D. White, 20, a senior at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Pia White is a patriot missile officer who served in Kuwait from November 2011 until this month. Patriots shoot down missiles in air defense, her father noted. White said his eldest daughter has received combat stripes and is stationed in Texas at present. She attended West Point on a soccer scholarship and is continuing with school to become a combat officer as well as a psychiatrist. She is also in line for a promotion to be a captain, he said.
A soccer scholarship also played a role in Prittany White's Air Force Academy education, where she is a senior.
"Prittany wanted to blaze her own path at a different school," said White. "In the Army in West Point, people are committed to getting you through it. In the Air Force Academy you sink or swim.
"When you go through the academies you make a military commitment. When you go to the Air Force Academy you either have to fly a plane or jump out of a plane or you can fly drones. In their training they jump off a four-story platform through an obstacle course into the water."
Far from the sounds of combat that are hallmarks of this family's existence, White and his wife live a quiet life on the Catoosa County farm where he raises 10 black Angus cows and grows 100 apple trees - until the phone rings.
As a physician, White said he would like to eventually get in a position to serve the underserved. He is joining White's Pediatrics in Dalton soon.